Will radical change rejuvenate UK shopping centres?
Radical plans for Lakeside shopping centre in Essex might point the way for wider redevelopment at a number of retail locations in the UK.
A whole section of Lakeside is set to be demolished, allowing it to be replaced with a £200m warehouse and distribution centre. A number of stores will have to be relocated to the remaining parts of the centre, including Asda and Boots.
Such a change may sound drastic, but it recognises that many areas of the UK have more store units than they need, and that increased online shopping requires more distribution centres.
Lakeside is situated close to several town centres and to rival mall Bluewater – just across the Thames in Kent – providing a huge amount of retail choice for local residents. But it is also conveniently situated to access motorway routes across the southeast corner of the UK, an ideal asset for a distribution centre.
Thurrock Gazette: “Lakeside confirms House of Fraser could relocate as flats plan announced for current site.”
It is not the first time that management at Lakeside has considered pivoting its focus to meet changing demand. Back in 2019 it announced plans to demolish a House of Fraser store and two multi-storey car parks to allow the building of 1,000 homes on the site, right next to the remaining stores.
There are shopping centres across the UK that face similar problems: too many empty stores since the growth of online shopping, and too few people living close to the facilities to ensure regular visits without driving. These other centres might also benefit from acknowledging that times have changed since their heyday, and ushering in change.
And time has truly marched on. Those of us who are old enough to remember the opening of Bluewater, a radical centre at the time, may still think of it as new but it has been trading for nearly a quarter of a century. And that quarter century has seen the biggest upheaval in shopping habits in several lifetimes. It is hard to imagine a new shopping centre of that size being built from scratch now, so all of these retail giants must adapt to changing consumer habits.